Author-illustrator Grace Lin visits Foote, and inspires an interdisciplinary feast for the senses.
There is something special about third grade. It’s the first year for official homework—a milestone for many students. Language arts classes explore novels and literature from a variety of historical and cultural sources. In social studies, the past comes alive through a study of 19th-century New England, with a focus on Connecticut. Students visit significant sites, conduct art projects, read primary source documents, and learn songs and stories from the time. Science, math, and STEM classes involve robotics, new mathematical expressions, inventions and animal habitats. After their introduction and exposure to Spanish and Mandarin from kindergarten through second grade, third graders (and their families) choose one of these languages and embark on a cultural and linguistic journey that will extend throughout their years at Foote.
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
- Physical Education
- World Language
Perspective-taking provides the framework for the third grade social studies program. In the first half of the year, students immerse themselves in 19th-century New England, with a focus on the local history of Connecticut. Oral histories, visual arts and artifacts offer opportunities to learn from, and make interpretations about, primary sources. Moving from local to far away, the class embarks on a comprehensive study of Australia. Historical and environmental factors, the indigenous people of the continent, the Great Barrier Reef and contemporary life in Australia are all incorporated into a lively exploration. The year ends with a biographical research unit about inventors, focusing on the ways in which innovation has impacted people’s lives.
In third grade, students investigate motion and design, earth science and the oceans. The first unit of the year focuses on inventions and the skills that will be used all year: hypothesizing, predicting, experimenting, observing, manipulating variables, handling equipment, recording and graphing data, and communicating with peers. The Earth science unit includes the study of the age, origin and structure of the Earth as well as plate theory, continental drift, earthquakes, and volcanoes. The oceans unit focuses on the structure of aquatic environments, marine plants and animals, and their special adaptations. Students perform experiments and travel to Mystic Aquarium. During the study of motion and design, students explore the physics of motion and technological design through a STEM robotics project.
Literature forms the basis for language arts in third grade. Many books connect topics across the curriculum. While learning about colonial New England, children hear stories about people of the times. When they study Australian culture, they listen to folk tales about “Dreamtime.” Read-alouds foster enjoyment of a variety of genres, aid in choosing books for independent reading, develop sensitivity to written expression, and generate topics for writing. Literacy instruction includes grammar, mechanics, fluency, word recognition and decoding, as well as comprehension. Novels and nonfiction are used for oral and silent reading. Children write about topics of their own choosing as well as assigned topics. They conference with their peers and teachers to edit their own work, to share their work with the class and to respond to the work of others.
Third graders expand their mathematical abilities as they explore increasingly abstract processes and expressions including place value, decimals, fractions, division, multiplication, measurement, geometry, probability, data and graphing. Throughout the year, the class is divided into smaller groups for focused investigations in many types of mathematics. Children measure, record and calculate sizes of objects using standard and metric units. They practice recall of basic facts while exploring the relationships of numbers in a variety of contexts. Algebraic skills are expanded and reinforced through problem-solving, logic puzzles and operations involving multiple steps and multi-digit numbers.
One of the showcase projects of third grade is a ceramic “wall pocket.” As the children learn to manipulate, carve, and mold slabs of clay into a desired shape, they gain new skills with a familiar medium.Third graders also learn to sew, by hand and by machine, learning to maneuver a new tool in the process of making fiber art project. The program follows the classroom curriculum with opportunities to explore colonial art forms and materials. Students also draw still-life representations, and engage in colorful printmaking projects.
Throughout the year, students continue to develop confidence and improved technique in singing and proficiency in matching pitch individually and in a group. Students learn to perform part work by singing partner songs, two- and three-part rounds and canons, and performing melodic and rhythmic ostinati. Students learn the new rhythm "tibi-tibi" and extend their skills in melodic reading and writing by singing, using hand signs, reading and writing in stick notation, and reading staff notation in F, G and C positions. Third graders learn more advanced songs, dances, games and activities, requiring responses to multi-step directions. Working individually and as a group, they demonstrate cooperation and respect for others in all class activities.
In third grade drama, students participate in increasingly elaborate theatrical activities. By repeating scenes and adding more and more elements (dialog, music, etc), they build their understanding of the complexity of stage productions. Students work together to creating a sequence of actions that form a plot. They respond to challenges that require quick thinking to adapt to the needs of a moment, and combine logic with creativity to develop believable characters and situations.
Third graders learn new skills and practice cooperative play in large and small groups. Games and activities emphasize physical fitness, sportsmanship, teamwork, hand-eye coordination and eye-foot coordination. Games become more advanced and children begin to learn the basic skills and rules of many sports, including soccer, Frisbee, field hockey, basketball, flag football, floor hockey, softball, baseball, volleyball, lacrosse and badminton. Skills are practiced, then put to use in modified games. Units in gymnastics give further practice with tumbling, balance, coordination and strength. Juggling and bowling are added, and third graders run the mile in both the fall and spring. Weekly five-minute runs help them work on pacing and build up their endurance for what is most kids' first attempt at a mile run.
Third graders become increasingly familiar with the collection codes of our library. They browse freely and explore the various sections of the library, building on prior experience and becoming familiar with certain sections of interest. With guidance, they examine illustrations, endpapers, page layout and typeface to develop appreciation of the physical qualities of books and the choices authors and illustrators make in creating a work.
In third grade, vocabulary and conversational practice include topics such as families, pets, hobbies and body parts. Children learn to ask and answer simple questions using basic linguistic structures. In addition to listening and speaking, reading and writing are introduced during third grade. Instruction continues to be highly interactive. Writing objectives include being able to follow stroke orders and write numbers, single pictographs, radicals and some of the most commonly used characters to communicate meaning. In addition to celebrating traditional Chinese holidays, third graders experience a STEM unit at the end of spring in which they demonstrate math facts in Chinese.
Third graders continue to explore Spanish-speaking countries as they build vocabulary and language skills. Lessons include South American geography, poetry and arts. They “visit” the Plaza de Armas in Peru and compare the city square with their own town or city center. As they "tour" Colombia, students learn about pets, zoo and farm animals and jungle species. Units related to everyday life include the home, friends and family, the community, school life, after-school activities, the senses, body parts, healthy habits, the months of the year, and simple conversations about the weather and seasons. Special projects include a Hispanic Day of the Dead project and a Colombian salsa dance lesson.
A highlight of the third grade year in technology is an extended unit in computational thinking, engineering and robotics. Children learn basic steps in programming and create simple procedures using a graphics-based application. They also design and program robotic devices using LEGO bricks. Third graders learn keyboarding and editing skills and begin to use computers for more frequent writing projects in class.
In early spring, Kindergartners tap Foote’s sugar maples to learn about making sap into syrup. The unit combines science, math, social studies and language arts, ending with a celebratory sap boil and pancake breakfast.
Lauren facilitates the school’s curricular review process and teaches U.S. History.